Memorandum by the British Government
The British Government strongly desire that the Cannes Conference shall lead to definite results which will be approved by French and British sentiment and also by the opinion of Europe as a whole. In their judgment the indispensable condition of such success is a close preliminary understanding between the French and British Governments.
Public opinion is undeniably anxious and disturbed both in Great Britain and in France. Questions in which both countries are deeply interested are rightly believed to be at stake. There is a general feeling that some of the fundamental problems of the peace still await solution, and the critical temper of the public in both countries has given rise to public controversy. The suspicion and uncertainty thus produced have been reflected throughout Europe and even beyond Europe with unhappy results.
The failure of the Cannes Conference would therefore re-act with very bad effect on the relations of the two countries. Indeterminate or provisional decisions would be regarded as tantamount to failure, and would inevitably accentuate the divergence between French and British sentiment which has lately made itself felt. Europe would regard any such consequence with dismay, since its peoples realize that a dlose understanding between the British Empire and France is essential to European welfare and the peace of the world. The British Government desire to make it plain at the Cannes Conference that the British Empire and France stand together as firmly in the issues of peace as in the ordeal of war.
In their opinion this is not to be secured by any piecemeal treatment of the questions by which the Conference is faced. On the contrary, they consider it absolutely necessary that the problem should be treated as a whole; and with this object in view, they desire to state the position of both countries, as they see it, at the present time.
In their opinion there are two principal reasons for anxiety in France.
In the first place, French opinion is disquieted on the subject of reparations. France is endeavouring to repair her devastated area, and is obliged to advance great sums, which make a
formidable gap in her budget, for that purpose. This expenditure should and must be met by Germany; but, in spite of settlement after settlement, satisfactory reparation by Germany is always postponed.
In the second place, French opinion is naturally anxious about the future safety of France. She has been invaded four times in a hundred and twenty years, and in spite of the losses of man-power suffered by Germany in the war and under the peace, France has still a population twenty millions less than that of the German Empire. Germany, moreover, possesses five million men trained to arms, and amongst them a very powerful corps of officers and noncommissioned officers. It is true that Germany has been deprived of nearly all her arms and equipment, but France cannot overlook the possibility that this deficiency may, by one means or another, be made good. It is therefore essential to her that the discrepancy between French and German man-power should be made up .in such a way as to guarantee her soil from another devastating war.
In Great Britain there is also grave cause for anxiety and discontent. Britain is a country which lives by Its exports, and its trade has been devastated as terribly as the soil of France. The consequences in human suffering and privation are very serious. Nearly two millions of the British working-class are unemployed, and their maintenance costs the country nearly £2,000,000 a week. This burden falls upon a community more heavily taxed than any other in the world and more hardly hit than France by the economic consequences of the war.
The hard ordeal through which the British people are passing is not, however, peculiar to them. France is in some ways the most fortunately situated of European countries. Owing partly to the large proportion of her population which lives upon the land, partly to the stimulus given to internal production by the needs of her devastated area, and partly also to the fact that the arrested condition of emigration to extra-European countries affects her population much less than those which sent large numbers of emigrants oversea before the war, she is suffering less than others from unemployment and from the collapse of international trade. In Italy and Belgium, however, the unemployment is serious. Belgium is a food-importing country, dependent upon the European markets for 80 per cent of her export trade. Italy is also very dependent upon foreign trade, and has a greater population to employ than before the war.
In Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe the collapse and confusion of the normal processes of economic life are even more marked. Millions are living in conditions of bitter privation and misery. Even where inflation has given employment and good wages to the working-class, the relief is temporary and reaction certain, unless measures are taken in time. The educated and the professional classes are suffering more terrible even than the working-class. The civilization of Europe cannot long survive such conditions. In its present state it is moving fast towards social and economic catastrophe.
Profoundly, therefore, as her own interest is engaged in the economic reconstruction of Europe, Great Britain appeals in no selfish spirit for the co-operation of France in that great human cause. It must be undertaken here and now. There is an awful aggravation of human misery, and in some parts of Europe an in-
creasing menace to civilization itself, in every month of delay.
The problem before the countries is how to meet their respective necessities by common action. These must be met as a whole. Complete frankness between th,e statesmen of both countries is essential, if the problem is to be effectively solved. Great Britain fully recognizes France's ground for anxiety, but she cannot agree to postponing the question of the reconstruction of Europe, while meeting France's desires in regard to her reparations and her security. In order to give satisfaction to French needs, the British Government must be able to tell the British people that the two countries are marching together to restore the economic structure of Europe and the general prosperity of the world.
With regard to reparations, His Majesty's Government are prepared to abide, so far as they are concerned, by the arrangement reached in London under which France would reap considerable advantages while Britain would make considerable sacrifices. They believe that this arrangement will meet the essential claims of France until such time as a wider financial settlement can be attained-perhaps in two or three years.
With regard to the safety of France, Great Britain is prepared to give her a guarantee that in the event of unprovoked German aggression against French soil the British Empire will put its forces at her side. There will be double value in this guarantee, since it will not only safeguard France in the event of German attack but will make any such attack extremely improbable. It is not likely that Germany would have attacked in 1914, had she realized the great forces which the British Empire would throw into the war. In 1914 Germany credited Great Britain with only six divisions; she knew little or nothing of the character or the resources of the British Commonwealth. She is wiser now, for she knows that, instead of six divisions only, the British Empire was maintaining 400,000 men in the field in France by the end of the first year of war. These numbers rose rapidly afterwards, and during the last two years the Empire had a strength of 2,000,000 men in France and Flanders despite a heavy drain of casualties. Great Britain called out a total of nearly
7.000. 000 men for military service by land, sea and air. The self-governing Dominions called out more than one million and a half. The Indian Empire called out nearly the same. The total strength thrown by the British Empire into the war, was therefore over 10,000,000 men. The losses in killed, wounded and missing were
It is inconceivable that Germany should forget these facts or their significance as a guarantee of French soil. What the British Empire did once for civilization, it will, if need be, do again. Germany, it is true, has great reserves of trained officers and men; but those of the British Empire will be available as long as those which Germany preserves from the old military regime. If, therefore, she is certain that the British Empire will stand by France in a future' war, she will not be tempted to keep alive any dreams of revenge. It is of great importance to divert the German mind from any such ambitions as well as to provide for the defeat of those ambitions should they mature. The British Government believe that both objects would be met by a British guarantee to France against invasion of her soil, and that such a guarantee
must ripen and strengthen the friendship of the two nations as years go on.
There are two ways in which the guarantee could be given.
The first is by means of an offensive and defensive alliance. Though such an alliance might seem desirable to France, it would in reality not serve her interests well, because such alliances are contrary to British tradition. The British people understand the claim of France to be guaranteed against invasion of her soil; but they would not willingly be committed to military liabilities for breaches of the peace elsewhere, 'and they would not undertake responsibility of any kind for the defence of countries in Eastern or Central Europe, in which their interest is necessarily small. An alliance involving, or even appearing to involve, any such responsibility would not carry the whole-hearted concurrence of the British people. On the contrary, it would be strongly opposed by large sections of the community in all parties, and would therefore not be as valuable to France as an understanding in another form.
The second alternative is a definite guarantee that the British Empire would stand by her in the event of unprovoked aggression by Germany against French soil. This alternative was discussed at the Imperial Conference last summer, and it is probable that the opinion of the Empire would support that of Great Britain in giving such a guarantee to France. It would therefore have far greater weight, for it would, the British Government believes, carry with it the whole-hearted opinion, not of Great Britain alone, but of the Dominions, which put a million soldiers of first rank into the field during the war. The real danger to France is from German invasion. She cannot be invaded by any other Power. A guarantee against German invasion secures her safety beyond doubt. This, therefore, is the alternative which His Majesty's Government prefer to adopt. They propose the draft Treaty between Great Britain and France attached to this memorandum as the form of engagement best calculated to protect the common interests of both Powers in Western Europe.
In order, however, that effect may be given to it, it is necessary that the guarantee should be accompanied by a complete Entente between the two countries. This was the basis of the agreement of 1904, which gave France the support of Great Britain in the war, and it is equally essential now. For such an Entente to be achieved, three questions must be cleared away. These need only be indicated here.
The first is the settlement of the Eastern question and the attainment of a just peace between Greece and Turkey.
The second is the question of Tangier.
The third is the question of submarines. His Majesty's Government make no condition of this, and they fully understand that the divergencies of French and British views on the subject may be due to different ideas of the uses which submarines can serve. The British opinion, however, based on four years' war experience, is that submarines are effective only against merchant ships and are ineffectual otherwise as instruments either of attack or defence. British opinion would inevitably insist on a heavy programme of anti-submarine craft, if the French submarine programme were carried out, and the two countries would thus be launched in a course of competitive naval construction. The British Government cannot disguise the fact